This Is What Sixty Looks Like

Renee Fisher

This is a delicate subject.

When people say I look good for my age I feel like I’ve been given an illicit prize. It’s a race I’m not running. I don’t deserve acclaim. Besides, don’t they see my turkey neck? How low are their standards?

But I digress. What I meant to say is, why do we care?

It’s not a competition, or it shouldn’t be.

I feel awkward when age comes up. If a person says I don’t look fifty-seven, I don’t want to say “thanks!” because that reinforces the premium we put on youth. And if a person proudly announces to me, “I’m seventy-five!” I don’t know what to say. “Congratulations”? I admit I have sometimes coughed up what was expected: “You look great!” or “You look so much younger!” But I always feel stupid, because the comment feels wrong.

Ditto if someone says, “You’re my daughter’s age,” or “I could be your mother.” I say nothing. It’s so fraught. What would you recommend? “I’d love to have you as a mother?” If a person says, “I’m so old and tired today, I feel plum worn out,” you would say, “I’m sorry.” But if a person says, “I’m old enough to be your mother,” I just clam up.

Yes, I know this won’t be a problem much longer. Anybody old enough to be my mother will be dead. But still, I swear I am not going to make comments like this to any younger women, ever. Age is going to have to become irrelevant unless I’m going to the doctor.

I saw the same sentiment in a book I mentioned recently, Saving the Best for Last. The authors apparently felt it was important enough to put it in chapter one. When her friend died, Renee Fisher decided that she would view every year as a gift, and she would own her age, whatever it was. If anyone tells her now that she doesn’t look her age, she looks them in the eye like, what did you expect? and says, “This is what sixty looks like.”

Her co-author, Joyce Kramer says,

“As I turned fifty, I experienced myself as the most beautiful woman I had ever been in my life because at fifty I liked myself.”

Isn’t that something to aspire to? At our age, we’re tough enough to achieve that kind of equanimity. If enough of us do it, it could become the cultural norm. Wouldn’t that be a great gift to leave our kids?

Merry Christmas to all my readers. I wish you long life and happiness, and I love you all for sharing this little space in, well, space. Best wishes for a beautiful 2012. I’ll see you in two weeks.

Comments

  1. says

    Reading this post was a fabulous way to start my day! Sadly, I am in the same situation as Libbye (a commenter above). And, much like Libbye, I often think “Janice would have been happy to be [whatever age].”

    My husband and I once entertained a couple who were young enough to be our children. We were really hitting it off and I thought we were going to be friends. Until … something one of them said made my husband estimate their ages, and he said “Wow. I could have a kid your age.” You should have seen the look on their faces. They had thought we were much younger. And now that they knew we weren’t, forget about it! Never heard from them again.

    • says

      Jean, I am never going to say that to anybody! When I have heard it, it makes me feel a sense of filial responsibility toward the person, and even though that feeling passes, it’s still there, hanging over us. I think this is a failing of mine, and also of the kids you refer to, but my sense was that I had something my friends couldn’t have, youth, and it made me feel guilty and fidgety. I have a couple of buddies who ARE my parents’ age, and I deliberately avoid any references that would make them aware of that, so age isn’t a factor and we can just be friends. That probably makes me look wimpy but so be it.

  2. says

    Ah, aging. How about turning 66 in 3 days? Ho! Ho! Ho! Actually, I am quite happy at this age–the most secure in myself than I have ever been. But I get the weird reactions, too. Like the pharmacy assistant who looked at my medicare card, then at me, then back at the card. I didn’t think her astounded look was a compliment.

  3. Mary says

    Hi Lynne,
    I’m so happy that I found your site. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. May you always have love to share, health to spare and friends that care.
    Warm regards,
    Mary

  4. says

    My personal favorite is “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” …. age is simply a number … and who the heck cares anyway??? It’s all a state of mind … and this is what 61 looks like to me …

    Happiest of Holidays to all …. you are such a fabulous group of women … I learn from you all daily!

    Marie

  5. Betsy says

    Thanks for this Lynne. As someone about to turn 60, I’m looking forward to using the ‘This is what 60 looks like’ if anyone makes a comment on my age. You’re right about the ‘rested’ comment as well. If people say ‘You look tired’ you know they mean ‘You look old!’ I must also say that I have the fabulous example of my 93 year-old mother-in-law who never used or uses any creams, potions, etc. , has had beautiful very white hair for years and was still driving herself to her volunteer job at age 91. Go Beryl!

  6. says

    Merry Christmas, my sistah, and enjoy your brief respite! Once again, you’ve penned a truly meaty post. I experience the same thing when people tell me I don’t look my age. I’ve had this all my life (must be the blonde hair!). What does age say about someone, other than perhaps more experience? And why don’t men get this kind of comment? Hmmm…

    • says

      Oh, good point, Deb. On a not very related note, I once heard Willie on Morning Joe say to Katty Kay, “You look rested.” Katty blanched, because that’s code for facelift, and it was clear to anybody with eyes that she had just had a fabulous one…

  7. says

    Lynne,When I was 50 ,I was diagnosed with Stage 4 NonHodgkins Lymphoma so each year after that when I have been graced with yet another birthday, I have rejoiced in being around for another year. Life is a gift and age a minor detail. I love your message of “saving the best for last.”I’ll take whatever I can get. My Mother just celebrated her 89th birthday and I’m lucky to catch her on the phone in between her going to the YMCA, visiting friends and volunteering at the local Foodbank :-) Love your posts,Lynne!

  8. says

    Lynne, I couldn’t agree more, and I appreciate your sharing my quote from Saving the Best for Last. That was at 50. Next month I turn 70 and my sentiments are the same! I love aging, despite the challenges and my random memory. I am blessed. And yup, 70 is the new 70!

  9. says

    Lynne, I always enjoy reading your posts! My sister died of breast cancer at age 45. I was 41 then, and I decided I would never complain about my age if I lived longer than her. I am now 50, and I no longer apologize for my age. Each new year is a gift! She would have given anything to see 50.

  10. says

    Lynne,
    The other night, I was out with a couple of friends around my age (58) and I started in about how this country doesn’t respect the elders like other countries. One friend (who has an upcoming juvederm appt) speaks up and says, “Yes they do, we’re the baby boomers!” I said, you think that younger people respect us because we’re baby boomers?” She said of course and that she’s never had a problem. Fortunately for her, I suppose, she’s forgotten the day we were out shopping and she asked a guy in the parking lot to move his cart out from behind her car. He said, “Wow, what a bitch, no wonder you have so many wrinkles!” She went home and cried the rest of the day. Oh yeah, that’s respect for ya.

    • says

      Vonnie I can’t believe your friend thinks people respect us cuz we’re boomers. Kind of the opposite, I would think, since with the purity of youth and an as-yet-unlived life, they can look at us (as we did our parents’ generation) and think, wow, what a bunch of self-serving, materialistic bastards! But more to the point, I am hoping that one benefit of our age is we don’t care what people think of us…no more Juvederm, no getting rattled by rude people of any age. That’s my Christmas wish anyway. Thanks for the comment, my friend.

  11. says

    My sister (and I’m sad to report, Marianne Williamson) said that 50 is the new 30. I had a tshirt made for me in sparkly rivets that reads “60 is the new 60.” My mother used to say “consider the alternative” when someone was vocally displeased with any age. One day in the not-too-distant future we will be in line in the grocery store, and see age-appropriate faces on the covers of magazines. And the whole world will relax and enjoy the entirety of a life. I hope soon.

    • says

      “And the whole world will relax and enjoy the entirety of a life.” Wow. I feel like making a sign for my office, or my front yard! A new Christmas greeting: And the tee shirt is a fab idea too, one I plan to steal. Thanks, Linda.

  12. says

    When I saw the title of your post, I thought “Hurray!,” then I saw my photo and got confused (I get confused a lot). Then I started reading, and I smiled. Thank you for the shout out, dear Lynn. Have a glorious holiday, befitting a powerful, beautiful, loving fifty-seven year old woman.

    • says

      Hey Renee, you just have to bear the burden of having inspired this post. I was first struck by the thought when you mentioned it at your reading in Hemet. But I understand. I’ll find you inspiration from a sister. In the meantime, happy holidays, my friend.

  13. says

    As someone who is turning 61 in a few days, I SO GET THIS. We live in such a youth oriented and age obsessed world. I am me, no matter what age I am. I don’t want to be judged by, explain, or make excuses for my age no matter what it is. I have friends in their 30′s and friends in their 80′s. I don’t treat any of them differently. I just like them for the people they are. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.
    Laura

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